Kiss That Grease Goodbye

Dear Home Ec 101,

I am perplexed.  I have never had a good answer to the question: how should I dispose of cooking grease (that is, grease from hamburger, bacon, etc.)?  I’ve used several methods, but it’s all pretty disgusting and probably not environmentally friendly.  I’ve poured it off into old glass containers and tossed it; I’ve poured it off and let it freeze in a mug and then tossed it; and I’ve left it on the counter for days, waiting for someone else to take care of it (and the cat jumps on the counter and eats some of it – ick!).

I live in the country, so no sink disposal for me (and I can’t remember my city life well enough to remember if you should or should not dump it down the disposal) – and I DO know if I just dump it down my sink drain I will be in deep trouble some day.

Help!

~Greasemonkey
Heather says:

What a great question. Your instincts have you on the right track. Do not pour grease down your sink. Small bits may build up in your pipes eventually clogging them.

If you have a compost heap it’s OK to occasionally add vegetable oils to it. These oils will break down. Animal fats may invite unwanted guests so it’s a good idea to handle them different.  Thankfully animal fats are solid at room temperature.  Use a widemouthed jar with a tight fitting lid and store it out of sight, because eew that’s just nasty looking. When the jar is full, use a spatula and scrape it into the trash just before it is taken out. A good spatula should get almost all of the grease, then the jar can be added to the next dishwasher load.

Submit your domestic questions to helpme@home-ec101.com.

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Comments

  1. Or you can store it in the fridge and use it to cook with. Bacon fat especially is very good — it adds a lot of flavour. For example, if you’re making a white sauce for scalloped potatoes, use bacon fat in place of some or all of the butter. Or you can use it for cornbread. Or you can use it for frying eggs. Or make refried beans with it. Etc, etc. No, it’s not especially healthy, but I say if you were going to use some other kind of fat anyway (butter, lard, etc.) why not use the yummy stuff you would otherwise have thrown away? As long as you don’t have high cholesterol I guess — in that case you may want to stick to unsaturated fats like olive oil.

    • I use paper cups, like the ones for coffee (not the thin waxy ones)or you can use empty pint or quart cartons from cream or milk etc. After cooking the meat, I move the meat towards one side of the pan. I tilt the pan slightly, using the stove burner grate to support and angle the pan a bit. The grease runs into the empty spot in the pan. Use 2 cups, one inside the other,(for strength) and a large spoon. I ladle the grease/oil into the cup. I place the cup inside a plastic bag (like a ziploc, but without the zip) and tie a knot at the top. Set it out of the way to cool a bit before placing it in the kitchen trash. Never down the drain ! As a homeowner and landlord, a call to plumber$ or roto-rooter$ can be avoided this way.

  2. It’s funny Canadian mentioned cooking with it because I was going to ask about that. The few times I have tried cooking with bacon grease, instead of it tasting yummy and adding good flavor, I found it made things taste like the grease trap smelled at the restaurants I used to work at. Sort of… just burnt and pungent and not savory and good. Also, I have to figure recooking fat is guaranteed to raise your trans fat level, which we know is a no-no. That being said, I know women cooked with bacon grease for centuries, so hey, whatever works for you, and it certainly is recycling!

  3. My mom just read a suggestion for this. The next time you buy half-and-half/cream/buttermilk/etc…, save the empty cardboard carton. Pour your leftover grease in there and store in the fridge. Then you can either save to cook with, save it hang up for the birds in the winter, or just toss it when it’s full.

    And I’ve got a question for the masses: my bathtub is driving me up the wall. Anywhere where water pools, ie, around the drain, on the ledges, etc… there develops this orange build-up/stain. It doesn’t seem to be soap. It does come off easily enough, with a bit of elbo grease. What is it? Can I prevent it?

  4. I use a tetra pack, like what a box of soy milk or chicken stock comes in. It’s something I’d throw away anyway, just like the cream carton. And I keep it in the freezer and just toss the whole thing when it’s full enough. I also cook with bacon fat when I have it. I pour it off into a custard dish, store in the freezer and chip off a hunk when I need one. I don’t know that it adds wondrous flavor but it’s nice. My husband’s family has a recipe for poverty stew that calls for bacon fat and when my MIL makes it, it’s fabulous.

  5. I pour my bacon grease into an empty mason jar and store it in the refrigerator. I don’t really use it to fry with or anything, but I do use it to grease pans for baking. I take a piece of paper towel (or a rag or plastic wrap would work, I suppose), swipe it in the grease to get a small chunk, and smear it on the pan. My cookies, cakes, etc. do NOT taste anything like bacon and best of all, I don’t get that gunky buildup like nonstick spray leaves.

    We live in the country and I sometimes use bread heels to soak up the grease and then give it to the barn cats or the farm dog.

    Armchair housewife, do you like your bacon super well done? That would contribute to an icky taste in your grease, I’d think.

    Amanda, your stains sound like mineral deposits from hard water. (Ours is orange as well) Use vinegar to clean it up, but without a water softener, I don’t know that you can prevent it. Unless you squeegee the puddles before they dry, I guess.

  6. But what do you do with unsaturated fats (like vegetable oil used to fry something in – stuff that’s a liquid at room temperature)? I don’t deep fry often, but my husband has a favorite recipe that involves a WHOLE lot of vegetable oil. I hate making the recipe (even though it’s really good and definitely one of hubs’ favs) because I don’t know what to do with the oil afterwards.

    Any ideas? Occasionally I’ll pour it down the drain with really hot water and some grease-cutting dish detergent, but I hate what that’s probably doing to the environment. Other times I’ll soak it up with paper towels and toss them. Better for the drains, but probably not any better for the environment.

  7. The New York City Department of Environmental Protection asks that cooking oil be poured into sealed non recyclable containers and disposed of with household trash. http://nyc.gov/html/dep/html/residents/congrease.shtml

    Cooking oil in the sewers causes much more than homeowner headaches.

  8. After reusing the oil until I can’t reuse it anymore, I tear up strips of old newspaper and put it in a can. I then pour the old oil over the strips. The strips will absorb the oil. Add more paper strips as needed until fully absorbed. I then wrap or ball up in another whole piece of paper and then disgard. The vegetable oil strips go to the compost heap. This method I believe embraces the principles of recycle, reuse and reduce. Works for me.

  9. I pour all oil or grease into a steel can (with lid; usually a soup can I’ve washed out) and keep it in my freezer till full. Then I put it out with the trash. Keeping it in the freezer with a lid on keeps the smell down; I would also worry about pouring hot grease into a jar that is cold (could break).

    BTW — I’ve heard that washing grease down the sink with hot water is a really bad idea. Hot water melts the grease, yes, but the grease and water cool rapidly in the pipes and the grease solidifies on the pipe walls. Articile I read said that if necessary, wash it down the drain with cold water so that it will not solidfiy on the pipes but be washed away. Has anyone else heard this?

  10. First, for the poster who has a bad taste when reusing her bacon grease, I agree with the poster above…it’s probably from one time or multiple times that you burned a batch of bacon. If you’re like me, either the first or last batch gets a little crispy, and that leaves a bitter taste in your grease. If you find that you burned some bacon, dispose of that grease in a seperate container so that the bad flavor doesn’t get into your “good” grease.
    As to the original question, I’m a fan of old coffee cans. The leftover coffee smell if there is any, helps the grease not smell so bad at first. You can safely pour hot grease into it, plus it’s got a lid, can go in the fridge or freezer, and it is disposable if you find you don’t want to keep the grease…so no more nasty disposal methods. For regular grease, well, I’m bad I guess, I just let it cool and pour it into my trash if there’s just a little. If there’s a lot, like from a deepfryer, I usually employ a large ice cream bucket or something, which I’m sure is totally not the right thing to do, but it’s convenient, lol.

    Also, the person who wanted to know what to do with a big amount of grease from frying-save that, too! Find a big enough container and keep in the fridge or (gasp!) do it like the old housewives did and leave it on the counter until you need to use it again. Food storage experts would kill me for saying that I’m sure, but hey, it works.

  11. If it's vegetable oil and you are just frying french fries or something, my mom usually saves the used oil covered under the stove – doesn't refrigerate and she uses it again whenever she fries something else. I'm not sure if there's a limit to how long it can be kept like that though.

  12. bookchick says:

    My mom gave me one of those fancy grease trap things – its a plastic box and then you put a bag in it and pour the oil in, once it’s full you just close the bag, toss it, and put a new bag in the container. I keep it on the back of my counter for easy access – but since it’s inside a plastic container I don’t have to look at it. I fried up some hamburger last night to use in quesadillas, and when i poured the grease off the stuff in the bag was still liquid and smelled rancid. Should i be keeping this thing in the fridge?

  13. alluringcharm5 says:

    I would have seen the cat getting into the grease as a clue LOL (Just teasing). Actually, an excellent way to dispose of grease is to turn it into suet for the birds when you are finished using it.